Maya Duggal – Markham College, Peru
I am currently in Peru on exchange. I arrived here two weeks ago and spent the first week touring the country. We visited important archeological sites in Cusco, went to Machu Picchu, and took a boat tour of the Uros floating islands. Throughout Peru it is very common to see Alpaca and Llama garments; from table runners to hats and scarfs, Peru has it all. I have also seen several lamb, sheep, llamas and alpaca in person.
In terms of major differences between Peru and the United States, there is definitely great wealth disparity. Though the Peruvian economy is doing very well, they still have a 25.8% poverty rate. Out of their approximate population of 33 million, 7 million people are considered poor. Also, I have noticed that with this drastic poverty comes lacking infrastructure. Most buildings in all of the cities I have seen in the south are small and run down. It is hard to see what local life is like and how difficult it is for villagers on a daily basis. I spoke to one girl who was selling hand-crafted jewelry and she told me she spent three days weaving one bracelet. Then, after all those days, she sold them for only one sole. That’s just about a mere 30 cents.
Furthermore, a lot of Peru is very densely populated and environmental regulations are not enforced. This means that cities, rivers and lakes are very polluted. Cars do not have smog checks and other pollution control regulations are not in place.
Last weekend I arrived in Lima for school. I was very excited to finally meet my host family. We had been in touch for several months and they were very kind and welcoming. At school, I expected a different social scene knowing that the school, Markham College, was quite a bit bigger than Athenian. However, during my first week at school, I’ve noticed that people are really warm and friendly once you get to know them. Though there are individual cliques and friend groups that have formed and not everyone is as inclusive as people at Athenian, I expected this. And people are still open to getting to know a new person so I’ve been able to make new friends.
I’m looking forward to the next three weeks of my exchange!